Elliot On Cuzzi’s Thumb

Posted in Baseball at 12:27 pm by

The Toronto Star’s Bob Elliot asks us to consider umpire Phil Cuzzi’s role in determining who finished 4th in the AL East two years ago.

The Blue Jays no longer hold top spot in the Phil Cuzzi admiration society.

That would be the ever-growing club for teams — and players — who wish Cuzzi had taken a FedEx job, worked at Home Depot or pumped gas for a living, rather than becoming an umpire.

In a span of seven hitters, the St. Louis Cardinals lost their composure, their manager and their No. 2 hitter on their way to losing a 2-1 decision to the Houston Astros yesterday.

For much of the day Cuzzi’s strike zone looked like one of those shots of tropical storms on the weather network … constantly moving. And on one checked swing after another Cuzzi made the call, almost as emphatically as Leslie Neilson, rather than checking with the base ump.

With two out in the eighth and the tying run on base, Cuzzi called a high pitch a strike to Jim Edmonds. Edmonds started to first, then retreated and confronted Cuzzi. Gonzo.

“I wasn’t trying to show him up, I wasn’t loud, I was trying to be professional,” Edmonds said later in the clubhouse. “All I asked was, ‘Where was that pitch? Did you call that pitch a strike?’

“Then Cuzzi said, ‘Don’t you (expletive) come back here and question me.’ ”

Obviously Cuzzi, of Nutley, N.J., didn’t see the Atlanta Braves-Astros 18-inning game a week ago when Julio Franco tossed his bat and acted like a petulant three-year-old rather than a 47-year-old. Plate ump Gary Cedarstrom didn’t eject Franco.

The Jays found their dislike for Cuzzi on September 22, 2003, when he ejected Roy Halladay in a late September start against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for throwing a pitch high and inside. Now they have company.

Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheehan is no more forgiving :

Phil Cuzzi was absolutely wrong. Unless you’re nursing a gunshot wound, you can’t eject a player in that situation. It’s putting yourself into the game in a way that a umpire never should do. Jim Edmonds didn’t lay hands on Cuzzi, he didn’t bump him, he didn’t delay the game in an untoward fashion. He was profane for 10 seconds, and that was all. Cuzzi has to appreciate the situation and show restraint.

This doesn’t even consider the merits of the matter. Cuzzi’s strike call on the 3-1 pitch to Edmonds was obscene, just the most blatant in a long series of bad ball/strike calls he made during his day. He’d been hearing about his zone all day from both teams, and had even ejected Tony La Russa an inning before. At some point, if everyone thinks you’re wrong, don’t you have to consider the possibility that you are?

Phil Cuzzi embarrassed the game yesterday, and we’re all the worse for it.

Cuzzi’s strike zone–someone want to check for me if “Cuzzi” is Italian for “Gregg”?–played a big part in the 2-1 game, helping the two fourth starters work from ahead in the count and putting hitters on the defensive all day.

O’Leary Under Fire For Normal Reaction To Derby Win

Posted in Football at 11:53 am by

Manger David O’Leary faces censure or fine after running the width of the pitch and gesturing to his paymaster, following Aston Villa’s 1-0 win over Birmingham. From the BBC :

The Villa boss passed referee Graham Poll on his way and could be reported by the official for offensive, insulting or abusive language.

O’Leary defended his actions, saying he was dedicating the win to Ellis.

He said: “I knew how much this meant to the chairman and this was the only way of going over.

“The chairman has taken a lot of stick this week and has been very ill.

“I could see him and how ‘smiley wiley’ he was.”

The FA had not yet received Poll’s report when contacted by BBC Sport and were unable to verify the story.

If O’Leary is charged and found guilty, he is likely to receive a fine and, or, a touchline ban.

Manchester City moved up to 4th place in the Premiership yesterday, after a 2-1 home win over West Ham, Andy Cole scoring both of City’s goals. Bobby Zamora, formerly of Brighton, tapped in his first top flight goal for West Ham.

With the flight-phobic Dennis Bergkamp unavailable, Thierry Henry is expected to make his return to injury-plagued Arsenal in time for tomorrow night’s trip to Sparta Prague.

(Chivas’ Arturo Torres tangles with the MetroStars’ Jason Hernandez)

Though it is obviously an action packed Monday morning for the New York Times’ sports section (child golfers being disqualified, the Giants’ red zone woes, etc.), it is kind of sad that the Paper Of Record’s national print edition couldn’t even manage a mention of the MetroStars sneaking into the MLS playoffs, courtesy of their 2-0 victory at lowly Chivas US . Said result knocked Kansas City out of the Eastern Conference’s fourth and final playoff spot. Suddenly, Alexi Lalas’ firing of Bob Bradley seems that much less Esposito-like. At least until NY/NJ get hammered in the opening round.

Dolan Under The Knife

Posted in Basketball, Hockey at 11:25 am by

The NY Daily News’ Frank Isola reports that Knicks/Rangers boss James Dolan is scheduled to undergo heart surgery later today.

Sadly for fans of both teams, Dolan is expected to make a full recovery.

Olney’s On MLB’s Umpire Hassles

Posted in Baseball at 10:46 am by

(Tony and Phil debate whether or not PETA is doing more harm than good, Harriet Miers’ chances and the wisdom of preordering an XBox 360 versus waiting for the PS3)

After the latest shitstorm in Houston, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney offers the following on his pay-to-play page.

Major League Baseball should determine a policy — a hard rule — about whether or not it is making the umpires available to the media. The NFL doesn’t permit access to reporters, but does issue rules clarifications when necessary. After the Game 2 debacle in Chicago, Eddings spoke with reporters and explained his version of what happened. While that didn’t go well, most of the time they are helped when allowed to speak for themselves, such as Rich Garcia’s mea culpa after he botched the Jeffrey Maier call in 1996.

But MLB might be running scared these days, after the Eddings press conference. Tony La Russa said before Game 3 that he had concerns about whether home plate umpire Wally Bell would be affected by the crowd and give Roger Clemens a larger strike zone, and when MLB was asked to produce a response from Bell, a spokesperson issued a no comment on his behalf before even asking him the question.

Then, on Sunday, home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi tossed La Russa and center fielder Jim Edmonds, who became the first player-manager duo to be ejected from a playoff game in seven years. According to Edmonds, Cuzzi used profanity and Edmonds did not, and according to Edmonds, he did nothing to merit ejection, especially in a playoff game. And during La Russa’s argument, crew chief Tim McClelland blocked La Russa from going near Cuzzi, with La Russa and McClelland making contact repeatedly.

What is Cuzzi’s take on it? What’s his version of their exchange? Why did McClelland deal with La Russa in the manner he did? We don’t know, because Major League Baseball did not permit the media to interview him; security wouldn’t even let reporters go near the umpires’ dressing room. After the Eddings press conference, is it now policy to prevent umpires from speaking to reporters? If so, then announce that policy and cut it into stone.

Fair ’nuff. However, it should be pointed out that La Russa was run after complaining about a Ball 4 that was clearly high and inside. Whether or not Edmonds’ whining was justified, there’s something incredible about a veteran skipper and all-star CF managing to get themselves ejected in that particular situation. Were the manager and player tossed named, for instance, Ozzie Guillen and Carl Everett, we’d be reading editorial after editorial this morning reccomending straitjackets, electro-shock, etc.

Meanwhile, Back In Chicago

Posted in Baseball, The Mailbag at 10:27 am by

Rob Warmowski writes,

Hey Gerard,

I submit this recording (mp3) of the White Sox pennant chaos outside my home, located six blocks from Cellular Field, recorded at 11:05 PM October 16.

This recording is provided as a public service to confused and frightened Cubs fans to help orient them to the unfamiliar experience of winning a pennant.

Thanks, Rob. And I would encourage Cubs fans to check out the entire file. If you only listen to part of it, you might thinking winning a pennant sounds just like rush hour on the Dan Ryan.

You might want to sit down for this (though chances are, you’ve already done so before booting the computer) : Jay Mariotti says “the White Sox have proven me wrong”, describing (seriously) Jerry Reinsdorf as “loveable”. No truth to the rumor that a newly magnanimous Mariotti has sent Ken Harrelson and William Ligue congratulatory telegrams, along with a sample box of Maybelline Expert Eye Liner.

Mushnick’s Imaginary Friends

Posted in Gridiron, Sports Journalism, Sports Radio, Will Leitch Sucks at 3:06 am by

The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick has long favored the Leitchian crutch of refering to “we” when he surely means “I”. A bit of literary license is one thing, but a total suspension of belief is required to swallow the notion that anyone sits next to Phil on the couch.

While watching USC-ND and how quickly ND has been revitalized, we couldn’t stop thinking about how Chris Russo last winter declared Charlie Weis a terrible choice. And we couldn’t stop thinking how, when Weis was on WFAN with Russo, a couple of weeks ago, it slipped Russo’s mind ” until after Weis was gone ” to mention that he’d trashed ND’s selection of Weis.

And then we couldn’t stop thinking how Russo would make a very cost-effective executioner. Seeing how he only shoots people in the back, think of the savings on blindfolds

(UPDATE: On today’s “Mike & The Mad Dog”, Russo replied to Mark from New Jersey who asked “how good of a coach is this Charlie Weis going to be?” by saying “I never thought it…so I’m dead wrong. I never thought it all year. I thought it was a strange hire. But he’s been tremendous.” So I suppose that qualifies as some acknowledgement from the Dog, however rare, that he’s not always right.)

You Can’t Stop Julie Bosman, You Can Only Hope To Contain Her

Posted in Sports Journalism, Sports TV at 12:50 am by


The New York Times’ Julie Bosman is positively en fuego Monday morning, reporting that Stuart Scott-isms have permeated the nation’s sports sections.

To many sportswriters, scoring a touchdown in football has become “taking it to the house.”

Hitting a home run has become “taking it deep.” And a hot young basketball player has become a “diaper dandy.”

According to a new survey of sports journalists by a doctoral student, ESPN is to blame. Scott Reinhardy, who is working toward a Ph.D. at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, surveyed 249 sports journalists gathered at the Associated Press Sports Editors Convention in 2004, focusing on the use of sports jargon in newspaper writing. He found a widespread acknowledgment that ESPN-speak has entered the common vernacular of newspaper sportswriting.

“Reporters don’t write ‘boo-yah,’ but some of the language and style and tone does emulate what’s on ESPN,” Mr. Reinhardy said.

Does Mr. Reinhardy like this trend? Oh no, he does not. “I don’t want to fight through cute phrases and puns and metaphors” when reading the sports pages, he said, “and when they don’t work, they really fall flat.”

Raptors Lose To Maccabi Tel Aviv

Posted in Basketball at 12:20 am by

Perhaps Toronto can schedule some exhibition games against the Washington Generals?

“To lose is unacceptable,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. “To say, ‘To lose to a team like that,’ would be disrespecting them. I would look like an idiot to stand up here and disrespect the team that just beat you. You have to respect what they’ve done, you’ve got to respect their effort.”


ALCS Game 5 – White Sox Win First AL Pennant Since 1959

Posted in Baseball at 11:12 pm by

White Sox 6, Angels 3

(ALCS MVP Paul Konerko celebrates his price going waaaaay up this winter)

As it turned out, the League Championship wasn’t much of a coming out party for Bobby Jenks — the White Sox bullpen was surplus to requirements, an incredible 4 complete games in a row being thrown by Mark Buhrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras.

(The Chairman and manager share a giggle as security asks Michael Jordan for his laminate)

Vlad Guerrero’s ALCS : 1 for 20, not counting all the street lights he and A-Rod smashed in the Pepsi commercial.

For losing pitcher Kelvim Escobar, next year’s spring training can include a refresher course in tagging a baserunner with the ball, as opposed to an empty glove. Had the umpiring crew gotten this particular call wrong, it really would’ve justified a LaRussian meltdown.

We’ll see a different Angels in 2006 — it’s doubtful ownership will stand pat with this punchless lineup. Bengie Molina might well be displaced by his younger brother (and perhaps Flushing bound). Unless Steve Finley hires Greg Anderson as his personal trainer, this might’ve been his last game in a big league uniform.

Newsday’s Jon Heyman pays tribute to Contreras, while sneering at the Angels’ feeble showing.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for our beloved, well-heeled boys from the Bronx, the American League Championship Series started. If they were watching, the Yankees (aka Team Moneybags) found out two things.

The first is that the Angels, the team that knocked them out in the Division Series, could have been had. The Yankees probably realized this at the time. But maybe they didn’t realize just how vulnerable Anaheim could look.

The Angels have a nice manager (Mike Scioscia), mascot (Rally Monkey) and bullpen. But they’ll swing at anything, if pitched properly, and generally not hit it very far. They don’t walk (nine in 10 playoff games), and sometimes they don’t even run that hard.

The second is that when it came to Jose Contreras, they mucked it up (and we’re being kind using that phrasing.)

Contreras was ranked somewhere between a reject, a giveaway and a discard when he was a Yankee.

Then he came to Chicago, and experienced a complete turnaround, which is the operative word for the South Siders’ pitching rotation.

We suspected there had to be a reason the Yankees paid $32 million to sign Contreras. And why also the Red Sox people threw a fit when they didn’t get him, and the Yankees did. The reason is obvious now. The man can pitch.

“When You Winning, Everyone Want To Fuck With You”

Posted in Hip Hop at 7:35 pm by

With the Astros on the brink of their first ever National League pennant, it seems all too fitting that we heed the words of one of Houston’s musical giants (and aspiring boxer), Willie D of the Geto Boys, interviewed this past January at Houstonsoreal (link courtesy Paul Sommersein).

I like the different genres of rap music. You got this guy he™s a conscious rapper, this guy is political, this guy just talk about money and partying and this guy just talks about fucking and this guy talks about killing motherfuckers and all of that shit to me is good as long as you get a fair balance of it. What happened is the system got overloaded with the bling shit and that shit backfired. Cuz the fans were like œYeah yeah we like this, we wanna shake our ass. Now they™re starting to say, œShit man, I™m tired of this. All they talk about is shaking they asses. That™s all I see every time I turn the videos on is hoes and cars and diamonds. Man talk about my pain, talk about my struggle man. The fans wake up and say œHold up man, I ain™t got none of this shit. This ain™t what the fuck I went through. When the high wear off, when the hoes disappear, when that bitch walk out on your ass and key your car up, you need some information on how to get around that shit. When the cops pull you over and violate your civil rights, your human rights, you know you need answers. And you ain™t gonna find it in that ass shaking music. Now all of a sudden everybody want to hear some real shit. They want to get back to the streets. They want to get back to the essentials, ala Geto Boys. It™s a uphill battle with the powers that be cuz all they know is shit, Geto Boys haven™t put an album out in seven or eight years, so they couldn™t give a fuck about us, even though our shit still jam. All you gotta do is listen to shit and you™ll know we kickin™ ass, but these motherfuckers will write you out of history in a heartbeat in this rap game.

Some Consolation For America’s Greatest Baseball Fans

Posted in Baseball at 6:40 pm by

(Jim Edmonds reacts poorly to Phil Cuzzi’s offhand remark about “making all of those catches look harder than they really are”)

Chin up, Cards faithful! Things may be looking bleak over at Ye Olde Juicebox…but on the bright side, Joaquin Andujar has yet to be thrown out of the game.

Update, 7:05 CST :

Astros 2, Cardinals 1

Brad Lidge, your acension to Marino Jr. status is nearly complete. Traling by 1 in the top of the 9th, St. Louis had runners on first and third (singles by Pujols and Walker) but failed to cash in ; Pujols was gunned down Ensberg-to-Ausmus on a Reggie Sanders grounder to third (Walker taking third while everyone was napping), then John Mabry tapped into a 4-6-3 double play (on which Walker would’ve scored had Mabry shown greater speed down the line than George Wallace).

Still, there’s some solace for The Universe’s Finest Baseball Team. Cheer the fuck up, exiled St. Louis fans of Manhattan! Your beloved Cardinals only have to win 3 in a row against Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt. How hard could that be?

I Won’t Let This Blog Get Sajaked Up

Posted in Baseball at 5:04 pm by

From the Chicago Tribune’s Mike Downey :

Pat Sajak is a lifelong Chicago baseball fan, born and bred, but even he can’t solve the puzzle:

Which team would a Cubs fan pull for in a World Series between the (oh, no) St. Louis Cardinals and the (uh-oh) White Sox?

“It would be like picking your favorite Olsen twin,” Sajak says.

(Pat, clearly tied of Mary Kate crowding the plate, prepares to dust her off).

I really don’t understand the analogy, especially given that plenty of Cubs and White Sox fans alike have been pulling for the Olson twins for quite some time.

Rather, I prefer the following ; trying to decide whose celebrity fans are more insufferable, those of the Red Sox or the Cubs, is kind of like picking who is the lesser talent, Pat Sajak or Ray Combs?

Anti-Announcer Site Craze Continues, Healy Retires Just In Time

Posted in Baseball, Sports TV at 4:17 pm by

While not quite Fire Joe Morgan, or even Heave The Hawk, Shut Up Tim McCarver
is another example of the angry interwebber in action, as profiled by the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Mike Bernadino.

The man behind the site is Thomas Baiter, a 32-year-old advertising supervisor for a New York cable network. It all began during the 2004 American League playoffs after Baiter and his friends heard “one too many McCarverisms.”

“I mentioned to a friend how it would be pretty funny to dedicate a Web site to skewering this guy,” Baiter wrote in an e-mail message. “I figured we couldn’t be the only people in America yelling at their TVs after some of the things he said.”

Baiter, who has never heard from McCarver or any of his representatives, also sponsors McCarver’s page on baseball-reference.com and, with the playoffs in full swing, reports that “traffic is really climbing again.”

Baiter says he grew up listening to McCarver on Mets broadcasts and enjoyed his work then but has been put off by McCarver’s devolution to a “suck-up and a generalist.”

Times Scribe Channels Mr. Shaqwell

Posted in Basketball, Fashion at 12:36 pm by

With the NBA’s imposition of a dress code looming, the New York Times’ Dennis Han, mindful of Shaquille O’Neal’s jibes towards Craig Sager, fantasizes about how the former might summarize the fashion styles of his peers.

O’Neal holds a master’s degree in law enforcement, so he’s a natural to walk the N.B.A.’s fashion-cop beat. Here are a few zingers Mr. Shaqwell might prepare for the league’s most notorious sartorial stinkers, all of whom are prime candidates for hefty dress-code fines.

* – With worn-out jeans and long, greasy hair, the Suns’ Stevie Nash (above, right) is a grungy nightmare.

* – A. I. (Allen Iverson) “keeps it real” with his gangsta attire, but if I said he looked sharp, I’d be a 7-foot liar.

* – Tim Duncan is to bland what tuna is to canned. He buys his threads at the Big & Tall store, in a special section marked “Dressed to Bore.”

* – Mark Cuban is rollin’ in dough, but his jock-wannabe jerseys scream “Just say no!”

* – Tom Tolbert’s turtleneck chic can’t disguise the fact he’s a pencil-neck geek.

Mr. Shaqwell might also pen a put-down of a coat-and-tie coach who, in more ways than one, simply doesn’t measure up: “The only thing sadder than vile Hack-a-Shaq is Jeff Van Gundy as a Munchkin in Black.”

Catty, to be sure. But Mr. Shaqwell would have a long way to go – and not just as a fashion critic. As Mr. Blackwell might say: “It’s not just his free throws that leave much to be desired. If he plays D like he disses, it’s time he retired!”

Heyman On Steinbrenner Paranoia and Vlad’s ALCS Disappearance

Posted in Baseball at 11:36 am by

Jon Heyman, in Sunday morning’s Newsday :

Things are getting really ugly at the top of the Yankees’ hierarchy. George Steinbrenner is said to suspect that the rips on him in a competing tabloid by Frank Torre and Don Zimmer were orchestrated by none other than Joe Torre. Just another sign that if Torre returns – and where else is he going? – he and Steinbrenner won’t be breaking bread at Malio’s anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Yankees people also are wondering if Torre is merely being dramatic in delaying his post-year comments. Although, in-house detractors hope he’s spending the extra time scanning the help-wanted ads. (The ad for his current job would go like this: Dream Job, Great Pay, Nightmare Boss.)

It’s getting so bad that one Yankees person blames Alex Rodriguez’s no-show performance on Torre, suggesting that Lou Piniella never would have stood for it.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is saying he’ll be “very involved,” which could mean one of Tommy Lasorda’s two choices (Orel Hershiser or Bobby Valentine) for manager has a shot over Paul DePodesta’s first choice (Terry Collins).

While the Dodgers might take a guy who was run out of Anaheim (Collins), they see longtime Dodger Mike Scioscia thrive 45 miles down I-5 every day.

Maybe this is the Vladimir Guerrero the Mets feared they might get when they declined to offer him a solid five-year deal. He looks hurt. He must be. He’s making A-Rod look like a playoff hero.

Frankly, I’m baffled as to how Vlad can’t solve the White Sox starters. Maybe it’s because they’re throwing strikes.

Robby : Minority Hiring Guidelines Are A Sham

Posted in Baseball at 9:58 am by

From the New York Times’ Murray Chass :

People on the minority watch are not impressed with developments in the managerial ranks in the first two weeks of postseason hiring. They have no reason to be impressed. A handful of minority candidates have been interviewed for vacancies, but there’s a sense that the interviews were intended simply to adhere to Commissioner Bud Selig’s six-and-a-half-year-old directive.

Frank Robinson, a veteran manager, is one of the closest watchers, and when he was asked about the Detroit Tigers’ hiring of Jim Leyland, he said: “They say they followed the commissioner’s guidelines. To me, the words of Dave Dombrowski, saying what he did about Leyland, shows Leyland was his guy all along. You have to draw your own conclusions.”

“They’re getting around it,” Robinson added, speaking not specifically of the Tigers but of teams in general. “They know who they want and they bring in a minority or two and interview them. They’re circumventing the policy. The commissioner’s office has to look at this and tighten the guidelines. They have to get more involved in the interview process, maybe have a representative from the commissioner’s office at the interviews.”

Robinson cited another way teams evade the policy. “They’re promoting from within without interviewing anybody, and that’s how they get around it,” he said.

Not that any of the three will have managerial jobs anytime soon, necessarily, but we do seem to read about Terry Collins and Jeff Torborg being under consideration far more often than say, Tony Perez.

Dropping A New Curtain – Bouchette On The Steeelers’ Superior DL

Posted in Gridiron at 9:46 am by

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette.

The league outlawed the head slap and essentially made offensive holding legal. Defensive backs no longer can mug a receiver until the ball’s thrown. Thus, defensive lines aren’t in position to maul, to dominate a game where the rules were altered to favor passing offenses.

So, along comes a three-man defensive line such as the Steelers’ with Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Kimo von Oelhoffen (above). Just try running against them. No one can.

They served as the lead actors that made the Steelers the toughest defense to run against in the NFL last season, and they head into the 1 p.m. kickoff today against the Jacksonville Jaguars without allowing a 100-yard rusher in the past 18 games, including two in the playoffs. It’s the longest current stretch of any NFL team.

You want a nickname? Von Oelhoffen, a 34-year-old veteran of 12 NFL seasons has it: The NFL’s best defensive line.

Among 3-4 lines?

“I believe among all,” he said.

Six days ago they stuffed the runner Bill Cowher called the best in the league, one defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau labeled among the best of all time. San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson, who had no fewer than 1,335 rushing yards in each of his past four seasons and led the AFC last week with 450 yards in four games, managed a mere 62 yards on 18 carries against the Steelers. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry in his first four games, 3.4 against the Steelers Monday night.

Lines in 3-4 defenses work in near anonymity, normally. Their jobs are to attract double-teams and allow the four linebackers to clean up. That’s one reason so many Pro Bowl linebackers passed through Pittsburgh during its 22 years playing the 3-4.

A funny thing happened to this group, though. The players are recognized. Hampton, a 330-pound gobbet with strength and quickness, made the Pro Bowl at nose tackle in 2003. A torn ACL ended last season after six games but he’s back in the middle. Smith, a 300-pounder at left end, made the Pro Bowl last season. Von Oelhoffen has been doing his thing in the league since 1994.

Ends are not supposed to lead 3-4 defenses in sacks. No lineman led the Steelers in sacks since Tim Johnson did so for the sad-sack 1988 outfit with four before von Oelhoffen did it with eight in 2003 and Smith with eight last season.

The Steelers will cope with Ben Rothlisberger’s absence today by handing their offense to a former league MVP. The league in question was the XFL, but there are worse backup options at QB than Tommy Maddox. Just ask Brooks Bollinger.

Vescey’s “Hoop Du Jour” = Rimshot City

Posted in Basketball at 9:09 am by

From Peter Vescey in Sunday’s NY Post :

Jerry West’s physical health (he has lost nearly 25 pounds) and mental state of mind (the Grizzlies have him excited) influenced the Memphis president not to call it a career after this year. It also didn’t hurt, I suspect, that owner Michael Heisley showed the League Logo a lotta love by aggressively recruiting him to extend for two years for the princely price of (educated speculation) $7M per. Terms were not disclosed, but it’s believed that 70 percent is going directly to West’s agent, Col. Tom Parker.

By the way, word has it Larry Brown’s numbers are $11M per and that’s not counting every conceivable perk, including use of a helicopter or jet on demand.

The Nets and Knicks played last night at Bridgeport, Conn. To make this usually mundane preseason game more interesting, Lawrence Frankincense and Next Town Brown made a wager: Whichever coach won, former Connecticut Governor John Rowland would repair his house.


Salutations To The Inventor Of Picture-In-Picture

Posted in Baseball, Gridiron, Sports TV at 8:03 pm by

The glory of modern technology enabled CSTB’s gleaming cathode ray to display Brad Lidge shutting the door on the Cardinals while simultaneously showing the Matt Leinart/Brady Quinn Death Match. Of the latter, I’ll say this much — the only reason that wasn’t one of the greatest college football games in history is ’cause there wasn’t a way for both SC and Notre Dame to lose.

(the Irish were one 4th and 9 away from toppling the two-time defending National Champs, but as you’ve probably figured out by now, Matt Leinart is the toughest ballroom dancer this side of Evander Holyfield. Tougher, maybe.)

For crazy early evening dramatics (I’m not even mentioning Penn State/Michigan on account of picture-in-picture-picture beyond a little too excessive, even in my delirious state), tonight was hard to beat. I’m sure the author of “Life As A Loser” would’ve done an excellent job live-blogging both, had anyone given him keys to the office.

This isn’t a great week to be a football team from Minnesota.

Hull Hangs Up Skates, Mouth To Continue Flapping

Posted in Hockey at 6:18 pm by

After a rough start to the ’05/06 season with Phoenix, Brett Hull, 3rd on the NHL All-Time scoring list with 741 career goals, is expected to announce his retirement tonight.

Hull, son of the Blackhawks legend Bobby, is best remembered for his 10 outstanding seasons at RW for the St. Louis Blues, followed by Stanley Cup winning campaigns with Dallas and Detroit.

His farewell press conference is scheduled for 8pm EST, and should be over sometime before midnight.

Pretending There’s A Higher Power That Gives A Shit About The NLCS

Posted in Baseball, Will Leitch Sucks at 5:21 pm by

Tara Dooley of the Houston Chronicle tests our faith in the power of daily newspapers not to suck like crazy with the following (link copped from Baseball Think Factory).

When looking for a comparison of spirit between the Astros and Cardinals, Teller is the guy to ask. The new rabbi at Congregation Brith Shalom arrived in Astros territory in July from, yes, St. Louis. He’s seen the Cardinals in action.

But as he watched those 18 innings against the Atlanta Braves Sunday, Teller saw ruach.

“It seems like the Astros have a significant edge on that after having won that final game in such a dramatic fashion,” Teller said.

Certainly there is a relationship between baseball and God, religious leaders say.

As the Rev. Chris Seay sees it, baseball is “profoundly spiritual.” It’s the pace, the anticipation, the longing, he said. Plus, the team has a full-time chaplain and a roster of players in touch with their spirituality.

“There is definitely a spiritual vibe going on with this team,” said Seay, who pastors Ecclesia in Montrose. He usually attends more than half the Astros home games during a season.

Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston sees God-given talent in the Astros lineup, including “some of the greatest pitchers alive in baseball today.”

“The Astros will win because they are great baseball players,” said Fiorenza, a longtime fan. “God has given them the talent to be excellent athletes.”

And there is always the old baseball-in-the-Bible joke, said Rabbi Avi Schulman of Congregation Beth El in Missouri City. It seems that the most fervent of baseball believers see a sign that God is also a fan in the very first line of Genesis: “In the big inning … ”

Oh, God cares about baseball, said Rabbi Howard Siegel, director of the Jewish Information Center of Houston. At least “to the extent that people have a natural need to compete.”

All this article was missing was an obligatory amendment of the Ten Commandments.

“Thou Shalt Not Steal (Just Ask Billy Beane)”
“Thou Shall Not Covet Kris Benson’s Wife”,
“Thou Shall Not Worship Any Graven Image (ie. The Pfizer Comeback Player Of The Year Award), etc.”

Thou I’m not a religious man, if there is a God, I’d like to think that he or she has more crucial matters to tend to than MLB’s post-season. Besides turning Will Leitch into a pillar of salt, that is. Though based on today’s events thus far, it would appear as though Mike Lamb has made a pact with the devil.

Brewers Contemplate Little Addition

Posted in Baseball at 4:50 pm by

The Boston Globe’s Jeff Horrigan writes that Milwaukee might be hiring former Red Sox manager Grady Little as their new bench coach.

(Grady, just about ready to take Pedro out…any minute now)

Little, who averaged 94 regular-season wins (188-136) during his two years as Boston manager, has spent the past two seasons working for the Chicago Cubs as a roving catcher instructor and a special assistant to general manager Jim Hendry. The Brewers, who finished 81-81 to end their 12-year string of losing seasons, dismissed bench coach Rich Dauer and third base coach Rich Donnelly after the final game.

Manager Ned Yost told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Little is “somebody I’ve had contact with.”

Little and Yost are close friends. They managed together in the Atlanta Braves minor league system and were roommates during spring training.

Hawks’ Jason Collier, RIP

Posted in Basketball at 2:07 pm by

The AP is reporting that Atlanta center Jason Collier (Georgia Tech) suffered a fatal cardiac arrest earlier today.

Collier, the 15th overall draft pick in 2000, was 28 years old.

College Football – It’s Swaggertastic

Posted in Gridiron at 11:01 am by

With their unexpected 6-0 start, the swagger is most certainly back for Penn State and their 8 thousand year old coach Joe Paterno writes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dan Majors.

Not to be outdone, the Bruins of UCLA possess the swagger that Washington State dearly covets, says the Seattle Times’ Craig Smith.

After consecutive Pac 10 losses, The Tacoma News Tribune’s Darrin Beene is also focused on the Cougars’ Swagger-deficiency.

If WSU is trying to locate their missing Swagger, they need look no further than Iowa City, where Indiana will “bring 4-1 record, swagger” to today’s contest with the Hawkeyes writes the Des Moines Register’s Andrew Logue.

Griffin On College Football’s Never-Ending Games

Posted in Gridiron at 10:38 am by

From the San Antonio Express News’ Tim Griffin.

Forgive Texas Tech coach Mike Leach if he would like to spend his entire Saturday calling plays from the sideline.

Understand that Leach is apart from growing sentiment in college football that games are stretching too long. If there is any doubt, just watch a complete game or two.

Because of more passing, more scores, longer halftime breaks, more commercials and replay stoppages, some college football games are stretching more than four hours. And Leach can’t get enough.

“I’ve heard people squawking about it,” Leach said. “But I have virtually no concern how long games are. If they were an hour longer, that would suit me just fine.”

But other coaches aren’t as enlightened as Leach ” or must have dinner plans after their games.

Big Ten and national coordinator of officials David Parry said he is hearing more complaints about how much longer college football games are.

“I hear it from people all across the country,” Parry said. “I was talking with (Indiana coach) Terry Hoeppner the other day. He told me that one game lasted so long that one of his players started the game as a freshman and was a sophomore by the time it ended.”

While Hoeppner’s claim was exaggerated, the modern game does lend itself to more offense. And as offenses have improved, more plays have been crammed into a typical 60-minute game.

The college game stretches longer than the NFL because the clock stops after a team has made a first down. The clock remains stopped until the ball is spotted and the next play begins.

College football has never taken the drastic steps taken by the NFL, which in recent years has passed rules to compress its typical game into about three hours.

In the NFL, the clock continues to run on first downs if a ball carrier is tackled inbounds. The clock also restarts on a kickoff return, a player going out of bounds on a play from scrimmage and after declined penalties, except in the final two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.

Those changes allow a college game to average about 165 plays from scrimmage ” about 14 more than in an NFL game.

Leach blasts the NFL for using a “fast clock” because of the lack of natural stoppages.

“I always thought it was incredibly ridiculous,” Leach said. “The notion of artificially shortening games is crazy.”

Crazy, perhaps. But given that this man might be calling the game, it might also be entirely neccessary, if not humane.